I started out the day with a fun writing exercise that helps with repetition and learning to use it for effect. For me, I usually balk from repeating a word too many times. If you’re like me, you scour your paragraphs for repeated words and do word searches for writing-tics (particular favorites of mine are “moment”, “slip, and “jerk”). But today, rather than flee from the dreaded repeated word, try embracing it! This exercise takes only a few minutes, so I highly suggest giving it a shot! I’m reading the wonderful book The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla long, where I found this exercise.
- Before you start, here are two helpful hints:
- When repeating words, three is the magic number.
- After you first use the word, repeat it again as soon as possible, even if it’s immediately after!
This exercise has two parts.
First, set your stopwatch for five minutes. Write about a person or setting (try using something that could geared toward your current WIP!) using hot-words, words that seem to fizzle or zing when you say them–crackle, slick, zipper are all great words. After you finish writing, circle your hot-words and pick your favorite of the bunch.
Second, set your stopwatch for ten minutes. In this round, use your favorite hot-word as often as you can, at the very least repeat it once on every line. Not once per sentence, but once on every line. Sometimes, this means repeating your word two, three, or four times in one sentence. Write the full ten minutes, even if you can’t think of a single thing more to write. Your best sentences might very well be written at the nine minute mark.
Here’s an example of repeated words in a very lovely paragraph, used as an example in the Writer’s Portable Mentor:
“For now he was still stuck in this red earth country, in this red earth place, in the red sky world, far from home, far from life, far from everything. On top of that he felt slightly worn. Slightly old now. More than slightly seasoned. And more than anything else, used up.” (Philip H. Red Eagle, Red Earth, 16-17).
What are some of your favorite writing exercises? Do you tend to avoid repeating words, or do you embrace it?